James Sylvestre, 45 – Suicidal Behavior, MS Mount Washington Passenger, October 28, 2006, Time of Death 10:00.
James Sylvestre, 45, from Hooksett fell overboard from the MS Mt. Washington ship about 10 pm on October 28, 2006, during a night time Halloween cruise, said New Hampshire Fish and Game Lt. Jim Goss. Sylvestre and his family made a tradition of attending the Halloween cruise. He had told his wife that he was going up on deck to get some air during the last half-hour of the cruise. Sylvestre, dressed in a hippie costume, was last seen leaning over the rail on the boat’s lower deck. He had worked at Segway in Bedford and was attending the annual public Halloween party on the boat
A few of the 290 people onboard saw Sylvestre fall during rough seas. The crew threw out a life ring, turned on floodlights and got help from the Marine Patrol; Fish and Game; and fire and police from Gilford, Laconia and Alton. A four-hour search ensued, but was hampered by darkness, driving rain and strong winds. Then, extreme winds prevented rescue workers from searching for Sylvestre for more than a day. With water temperatures in the 50s, searchers said anyone in the lake would be overcome by hypothermia in a matter of minutes
A New Hampshire State Police helicopter searched shorelines and some surface water. Connecticut State Police joined the search by contributing two troopers and a 25-foot search boat specially fitted with side sonar.
Divers and a special sonar unit were brought to search along a section of the cruise ship’s route, between Welch and Rattlesnake islands.
“We had to suspend the search because of the large size of the potential search area and the fact that nothing of significance had been found after several days,” said Fish and Game Department Lt. James Goss. “We know how difficult these situations are for the families, and regret we could not bring the search to a successful conclusion.”
Mount Washington Cruises in the Weirs Beach section of Laconia offers narrated two to three hour scenic cruises and dinner dance cruises from early May through October for a price of $20 to $40 per person.
The company also does U.S. Mail delivery for residents with homes along the shoreline, serving Loon Island, Bear Island, Beaver Island, 3 Mile Island, East Bear Island, Camp Lawrence, Birch Island, Sandy Island, Cow Island, and Jolly Island.
Lake winnipesaukee is the largest lake in NH spanning 72 miles at the longest stretch. It is a spring fed 44,000 acres lake with 274 habitable islands and has 282 miles of shoreline
UPDATE: September 26, 2007
The body of James Sylvestre has been found this past week and identified through dental records.
Sylvestre’s body was found “in the general vicinity” of where he fell overboard in 2006, by a fisherman 1.5 miles off shore between Diamond and Welch Islands around 7:15 a.m. Friday, September 21, 2007.
Officials say that while it is impossible to know exactly what happened, it is likely Sylvestre’s body sank to the bottom of the lake before floating back up. With water temperatures in the 50s at the time, searchers said anyone in the lake would be overcome by hypothermia in a matter of minutes. James Sylvestre Page
UPDATE: December 13, 2007
The widow of Sylvestre has file a wrongful death lawsuit this case. The suit filed by Attorney Vincent Wenners Jr. of Manchester charges that the cruise line and its employees “failed in their duty” to prevent Sylvestre from falling overboard, operating the ship in such a manner as to cause him to fall and then failed to rescue him after he went into the water.
Witnesses have said that Sylvestre was leaning over the ship’s railing and appeared to be vomiting when he fell into the lake.
The suit claims that the cruise line and its employees had a duty to not serve alcohol to an already-intoxicated person and “recklessly served” alcohol beverages to the decedent.
Mrs. Sylvestre is alleging loss of consortium and loss of companionship and is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
UPDATE: March 15, 2008
The state fined the Winnipesaukee Flagship Corporation $3,000, with half of it suspended after determining employees served James Sylvestre more alcohol after he was already intoxicated.
A Marine Patrol report concluded Sylvestre went over the side because of being drunk and possibly from the combination of alcohol and medicine he was taking. The report quoted witnesses as saying they saw Sylvestre stumble toward the ship’s rail, hit it hard and flip over.